Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Another Caddie Week in the Books

It’s a stupid f-ing game, this one we continually play. Hit a white ball, chase it, hope to find it in a good lie on grass that is groomed, but groomed with human error.

We stand over putts thinking we know what is going on, but not really knowing anything. It looks like it should go left but something in the cosmos takes it right. It appears to be slow but a river 11 miles away keeps it rolling fast. It’s a game of guesses, not misses, yet we continually think this iron or that infomercial has fixed our problems.

This week, at the LPGA Tour Championship, I got to see first hand the highs and lows of professional golf. See, a friend of mine happens to be a tour player, and called me to caddie for the second time this year, apparently in desperate need of a caddie that talks too much at the wrong times and isn’t that great at reading greens.

No matter, I jumped on the first flight possible because, shit, if I’m not making it professionally I’d like to see someone who is. How was the week in Houston, Texas? (tops on my list of “reasons I wish our forefathers had administered erasers to city developers.” It’s a town of traffic, torrential humidity and not enough health options at restaurants.) Well, it was a lot of fun, very interesting, and at times downright frustrating.

Erica Blasberg and I were stuck in Sugar Land, Texas, a suburb that would make Arlington roll her sweet little eyes. McDonalds? Got 10 of ‘em. Buffalo Wild Wings? It’s the only place to drink. Applebees? You betcha. We stayed at a Marriott, obviously.

The tournament was Bethpage Black 2.0, a constant reminder that when Mother Nature has her way, we can’t do shit about it. It rained so much even the turtles in the ponds at the Houstonian needed a break.

None of this stopped us from somehow going out on Thursday and playing 16 holes, eventually finishing our first round Friday afternoon before we kicked off the second round. Those 14 holes would be the last we’d see for a day, as Saturday was rained out and Sunday became the second round.

I’ll admit this, and I have no problem doing so. Being involved in a rain delay at a pro golf tournament was one of the more interesting things I’ve ever been a part of, sports related. Pat Hurst and caddie instituted a card game. Team Europe huddled around a television to watch Arsenal play. The young generation killed their iPhone and Blackberry batteries faster than an hour-long conference call. Twitter took on a face of his own.

The catered food took a hit. And another hit. If losing pounds is all the rage on tour, rain delays are God’s gift to the hefty fan base.

It became a bit of a joke. Players would show up at random times hoping to play, only knowing they wouldn’t. On Friday, playing with the extremely entertaining and equally talented Karren Stupples (and caddie/husband Bobby, who also was a great guy), a cart drove our threesome out to the 8th tee to complete our first round. The rain was still coming down and the course looked more lazy river than championship golf venue, but we did as were told, and got to the tee only to be called back because, well, we weren’t playing golf (Nobody told us. Thanks, LPGA).

So, that was the only time something like that happened, right? Ha. On Saturday, all the groups were rushed to their holes to finish the second round, only to be told there wasn’t going to be golf played because, in the words of Collin Raye, “That was a river, this is an ocean.” The course was unplayable, and it turns out we weren’t going to be playing any golf, but a ride in a mud-soaked van out to the course is always a good time, right?!

Sunday saw us complete our second round, but not without a little fun of it’s own (Sunday can’t let Friday and Saturday get the best of ‘em, right?). Taking a white van reserved for mechanics and child molesters, our driver took the scenic route out to the back nine, so we could tee it up on 14 and complete golf for round two. Hurdle? In the words of Jackie Joyner-Kerse, hell yes. There was a gate, and the gate had a Master Lock, and sadly, neither Erica, Karen or myself has ever been especially great at picking locks. There really isn’t a moment that defines this LPGA Championship like seeing three professional golfers in skirts and shorts jumping a four-foot tall fence in order to complete a round postponed due to weather. It almost had a touch of irony muddled with “are you fucking kidding me” to it. “Wanna finish this round? Well, you gotta climb.”

Monday was perfect. We got out to the course, without really knowing our tee time, but when in Rome ...

As for my caddie duties? I’ll explain it like this. My golf game is no Tiger Woods, and my caddie skills are sure as hell no Steve Williams. I pissed off Erica at one point because I boneheadidly asked her if she wanted a candy bar or banana during the most intense part of any round we had, knowing full well she didn’t give a shit about a banana when she was trying to figure out a way to finish strong and make some birdies. She might be cute and sweet, but it took me a while to realize she’s still a pro, and bothering her with things like candy bars shows how unprofessional I really am at this.

I didn’t screw up any yardages, so there was that.

The good news is, when Erica and I have teamed up together, we’re 2-for-2 in made cuts, even though my name probably shouldn’t be included in that. She hits the ball well enough to be a contender on tour, and in the near future that will be the case. She’ll win on tour. She’ll be sporting American flag emblems on her face with the rest of the Solheim Cup. She’ll call me one day telling me about another top-10 or another sponsorship or how she’s really happy dating Shia Lebouf. The response I’ll have to all of that is that I got the opportunity to be behind the serious ropes. The ones where putts count for thousands of bucks and the players changing shoes in the parking lot have names like Ochoa, Wie and Kerr (speaking of Kerr ... the area the hotel was in was all restaurants and bars, and Kerr was out an Italian food place we went to one night. Honestly, one of the cooler females I’ve ever run across in my life. Intelligent, sarcastic and can see through my bullshit ... huge fan. She’s awesome.)

It was another week where I learned as much about golf as I ever thought I could. Gracias, Erica. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I.


Lee said...

People complain about Kerr's attitude but i dig her. As far a Erica goes, i think she's a standup gal and a real pro. After round 2 at the Navistar tourney I was sitting next to her on the patio at the clubhouse while i was waiting for my player. Erica was just relaxing, (tanning her white feet) and another caddie was firing away at her. He hit on her continually until Grzebien interupted and told him to knock it off. It was fun to watch, and i could tell what a real pro she is by the way she handled herself and the situation. She kind of just laughed it off. I guess she's probably used to it!

Aaron Bennett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aussie Golfer said...

Well done Shane, great read. I can imagine being part of a rain delay round the clubhouse of a professional tournament is an interesting place to be. I was stuck at the clubhouse at the australian Open last year and was absolutely fascinated. 2-2 is not bad. Keep up the good work.

Vince Spence said...

Cool beans..!!

Did you pick up any course management tips?

Ballman@sweetspotgolf.net said...

I'm a big Blasberg fan and look forward to her career taking off. I think she is great for the LPGA (those Puma ads ain't bad!) and look for her to hit her stride next year!
cool report Shane, sounds like a great weekend to me.

Anonymous said...

I am doing research for my college paper, thanks for your brilliant points, now I am acting on a sudden impulse.

- Kris